Book reviews and recommendations, Young Adult 12-15, Young Adult 16+

Young Adult Top 5 picks for November

by Orla, Kildare Town Library

The Complete MAUS by Art Spiegelman

Maus is the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize. It tells the true- life story of Art Spiegelman’s father, Vladek Spiegelman, who is a survivor of the Holocaust. It also deals with their tense and turbulent relationship. His father is a difficult man. He can be cantankerous and belligerent. Art interviews his father about the past and observes the toll it has taken on his present everyday life. The black and white
cartoons portray how bleak and desolate those horrendous times were. Most of his father’s extended family perished at the hands of the Nazis. Art Spiegelman drew mice to depict the Jews, cats for the
Nazis, pigs for the Poles and dogs for the Americans. The clever use of animals highlights their natural instinct to kill, insinuating that the Germans were programmed to kill the Jews. Many publishers refused to take it on board because it was such a daring concept. This graphic novel was first published in New York 1980. New Yorkers were outraged, as they are renowned for their love of cats, and were disgusted that the Nazis were depicted as cats! His father had endured many months of hardship, starvation and abuse in the Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp and later in Dachau. It is saddening to see how PTSD manifested in his life decades later. To fully understand what happened during the Holocaust it is imperative we read books like this which gives us a harrowing insight from a survivor’s perspective.

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian 

This is the story of a young boy, Willie Beech, who has been evacuated to the countryside, for his safety, at the beginning of World War Two. He has been sent to Mister Tom Oakley’s house. Mister Tom is a recluse, not very sociable, a man who keeps himself to himself. We learn that he is a widower and that his own son died at a
young age. At first Mister Tom appears curmudgeonly and set in his ways. However, with the arrival of Willie, his heart soon softens. It is heart breaking to read about the condition Willie is in when he first arrives at Mister Tom’s humble house. He is severely malnourished
and has multiple bruises all over his body. His clothes resemble rags. His socks are so loose they expose his battered legs. Willie’s mother had beaten her son into believing he was a wicked boy. It took him a long time to realise that Mister Tom would never beat him, even if he wet his bed. Willie soon grew in confidence and was genuinely happy. Mister Tom had done an excellent job restoring love and laughter in Willie. A dark cloud soon looms over their lives when Willie has no choice but to return to his wicked biological mother, who lives in a squalid flat in London. Mister Tom writes to Willie. Getting no reply, he decides to go and investigate. This is a story that
will break your heart into a million pieces and will soon put it back together again. It proves that love will always triumph over hatred. Even through the bad times we must remain hopeful for the good times to come.

Available to borrow in ebook format from Bolinda Borrowbox here.

My Brother’s name is Jessica by John Boyne
Life for Sam Waver is a struggle. He is quiet, picked on by bullies
and has few friends. It doesn’t help that he is dyslexic, and has trouble reading. However, his older brother Jason, makes life more bearable. Sam idolises him. What’s not to like? Jason is good looking and is very popular. All the girls have their heads turned in his direction, and the boys brag that he is the best player on the soccer team. Sam looks up to Jason and wishes he could be more like him. Jason doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, and appears to glide through life like a swan. What Sam loves the most about Jason is that he always has time to spend with him. His parents are so consumed with their careers they have little family time to spend together. His mother is a
cabinet minister and his father, is her advisor. Sam and Jason are reminded on several occasions to toe the line. They must be presentable for the media frenzy that comes with their high-profile public jobs. It comes as more than a shock to them, when Jason sits
them all down and announces he no longer wants to be a boy. He would like them to call him Jessica. Mortified, their mother shoos him out of the house to go and live with his aunt. Nobody knows what to do or what to say. Sam’s world has been turned upside down. At first,
he is confused and embarrassed. It is a lot to process. Sam soon realises Jessica is truly happy transitioning into a female. Their sibling bond becomes stronger than ever. Sam’s parents react irrationally. They believe Jason transitioning will be abominable. They are more concerned about their careers being tarnished and ruined than by the welfare of Jessica. Gradually they learn as a family what true love really means and to accept people for who they are.

Available to borrow in both ebook and audiobook format from Bolinda Borrowbox.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’ Neill
This book is profoundly layered by feminism from the very first page. The author is retelling the story of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. O’Neill’s version tells the tale of a young
mermaid, Gaia. She lives deep in the ocean off the Irish coast. The kingdom she belongs to under the sea has a strong, oppressive
patriarchy. Her controlling father is a male chauvinist. He objectifies his daughters, rendering them useful, based on their looks. He expects them to wed without complaint to men of a much older age. Gaia’s sole purpose is to focus on her beauty, smile obediently and follow her father’s demands. Despite having an overbearing, powerful father Gaia has her own wishes and dreams. After breaking the surface, for the first time, she spies on a human boy. She soon lusts after him. She trades her voice for legs from the Sea Witch. However, above the water all is not as it seems. Without a voice she can only observe her human boy crush. She is repulsed by his selfish, arrogant and reckless teenage behaviour. This book explores the themes of sexism and inequality. Spoiler alert – There is no fairy tale ending!

Available to borrow from Bolinda Borrowbox in both ebook and audiobook format.

Jackpot by Nic Stone
Rico is seventeen. She lives with her single parent mother and her younger brother, Jax. Her mother just wants what is best for her children. They live in a decent apartment in an affluent area and attend a prestigious school. However, it is well beyond their means. Her burdened mother is too proud to take any welfare payments or apply for subsidised healthcare. They sometimes have trouble paying the rent and are crippled with medical bills. When money is scarce Rico often takes on extra shifts at the gas station where she works.
With all this financial stress Rico finds it arduous to stay focused at school. She questions what is the point of attending school if she can’t afford college? Her mundane lifestyle changes when she realises that she has sold a winning lottery ticket. Rico follows the local news snippets and is amazed that the lucky individual has not come forward. She has a hunch who it is and is certain if she can track them down they will give her a monetary reward. Sometimes it feels like a wild goose chase, with many dead ends. When Rico is about to give up the quest her new friend, Zan Macklin, convinces her not to quit. This is a novel that gives hope to those who are struggling and a gentle reminder that some things in life are more important than money.

Available to borrow as an ebook on Bolinda Borrowbox.

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